There is a word for Korean pop groups; hardworking. And they don't call it the Korean wave for nothing, as k-pop idols VIXX swept into Baltimore to woo it's American audience. Some 3000 Otakon convention attendees eagerly gobbled up every word, dance move, and handwave from the rookie idol group that only debuted two months ago after appearing on MNET's Mydol reality show. The show auditioned ten contestants and eliminated all but six to form VIXX. K-pop prides itself on studying all the nuances of pop music and what makes it popular to create a formula that churns out idols. The only other thing you require is good ingredients. VIXX (Value in Excelsis) aims to be the best ingredients. Much like their band name states, VIXX values the highest. Ken and Leo emerged as the main vocalists, Hongbin and Ravi rap and sing, N was named the group leader, and Hyuk rounds out the team as their maknae (youngest member).
As I entered the room for their interview, I was cheerily greeted by a standing wall of handsome idols, each rattling off their name with a rehearsed byline (one was the cutest, another was shy, etc.) Sitting down to business, they retained that enthusiasm, answering questions and laughing at inside jokes. Ravi, N and Hyuk admitted to having met before Mydol, though each had several rounds of auditions to get on the show. And while they were competitors before, they expressed confidence in working together to be the best group.
They showed off that confidence during their performance Friday night. With only two songs available from their debut single, Super Hero, they filled the hour long concert with MC's and crowd interaction. Every handwave and every smile was greeted with girlish screams of joy from the audience. The choreography was tight, a mix of jazz and lyrical hip hop. While N coordinates most of the group dances, they work with the Nana Dance School, well known for choreographing for artists such as Lee Hyori. An honest cover of Boyz II Men's I'll Make Love to You was met with cheers; their English may have been so-so, but their vocals were soaring through the air. Lucky fans, who thought the show was over when the band exited after performing Super Hero, stampeded back in with a roar as the spot lights came back on and the group came out for a final encore. In what seemed like an unrehearsed decision to perform Super Hero again, the group invited fans to stand, shake hands and snap away with their cameras. The encore wasn't so much about singing as it was about giving their audience a sincere farewell.
When asked to describe that first performance in the USA, Ravi smiled and in his best surfer dude voice said, "Awesome." I found out later that he had only just learned the American slang word the other day. What was the one item they couldn't travel without? An outlet converter. These refreshing quirks are perhaps what gives VIXX that extra edge. Rather than watered down and canned answers, they opened up about their training and backgrounds. Ravi's hobby in graffiti art extended to designing a graphic tee and his band mates had also participated in an art exhibition with him. Leo and Ken were each practicing piano, perhaps to duel it out or maybe play a duet. Ravi was studying music composition in hopes of contributing to future song writing. We'll find out soon enough, as VIXX stated they'll be releasing another single at the end of the summer.
During their fan Q&A, they did a shimmy down the catwalk and introduced themselves to each side of the room before sitting down. They gave out two sets of hugs to fans risking the wrath of the rest of the room, sang happy birthday due to a translation error, waved to a video recording for a girl who couldn't attend their show, and artfully dodged all questions about what they looked for in a girlfriend. Fill the in betweens with Ravi's cheerful, "Thank you!" whenever Leo couldn't get over his shyness in answering (or not answering) a question, and watch the time fly by in one of the most amusing fan Q&A's I've ever attended.
Otakon, a perennial risk taker in the Asian pop culture convention circuit, scored a big win in being the first to feature a k-pop idol group as a guest. Speaking with the unabashedly sweet fans of VIXX, they expressed an overwhelming excitement that permeated the concert and Q&A. I always ask the bands I interview to give their fans a farewell message. In their own words, the group said,
"We only have two songs right now, but when we come back next time we're going to bring a lot more wonderful songs. This is our first international concert and we only have good impressions of the fans here. They cheered us up. After being so tired from flying, we were really thankful to the fans at the concert and hope to improve our English skills, so we can converse with our fans next time. We've received such passionate emotion from our American fans, we're really touched and honoured to have performed in such a beautiful country."
KoME would like to thank Kathy Chee for the photography and article.
VIXX at Otakon
live report - 08.01.2012 04:58
Boyband VIXX performed at Otakon in July 27th.
© Kathy Chee